Imagine a world where a patient’s profile is completely digitized into a “digital twin,” and a computer can run through thousands of other patients’ digital twins to find the individual with the most similar profile and then tell doctors what worked for that individual so they can use the same treatment for the current patient.
Or a world where doctors can begin treatment on a stroke patient not within the current average of 90 minutes but in a mere 20 minutes.
That world is one that MUSC and Siemens Healthineers hope to create together. The two organizations announced a transformational partnership Monday that is unlike any other in MUSC’s 194-year history, according to David Cole, M.D., FACS, president of MUSC.
In front of a standing room-only crowd that included MUSC faculty, staff and board of trustees members, elected officials, business and state leaders, and leadership from the University of South Carolina and Clemson University, Siemens Healthineers and MUSC outlined their joint vision: create a blueprint for the rest of the world of a transformed health care system that provides safe, equitable, timely, effective, efficient and patient-centered care.
Creating a digital twin of a patient is a longer-term idea. If one takes a “crawl, walk, run” approach, then that idea is definitely at the run stage, according to Bernd Montag, Ph.D., CEO of Siemens Healthineers.But reducing the time it takes to begin treatment for stroke patients is a project the new partners plan to begin immediately.
In the U.S., the current door-to-treatment average for stroke patients is 90 minutes, but faster treatment leads to better outcomes and survival rates. MUSC is already faster than the average but decreasing the time to 18 to 26 minutes could reduce hospital admissions by 383 days and save $2.2 million in follow-up care and $1.7 million in long-term disability for working age adults, according to MUSC researchers. It also would add 122 years to the lives of 363 South Carolinians.
The partners plan to accomplish this by re-engineering the stroke center process to take patients directly to the angiography room so real-time imaging can provide an accurate but faster diagnosis.
MUSC and Siemens Healthineers also plan to create a digital twin of the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion, which will allow them to test processes and workflow changes in the digital replica before trying them in the real world.
The MUSC Health hybrid operating room, an OR integrated with an imaging room, will also be reengineered, said Pat Cawley, M.D., CEO of MUSC Health and vice president of Health Affairs, University.
Cole said that MUSC and Siemens Healthineers have worked together for two decades and in that time have found their values and purpose align.
“We anticipate that our global work will be nothing short of transformational, remolding and establishing health care processes, systems and structures in ways that are life altering and, we expect, lifesaving. Our advances will be designed with scalability and replication capability so we will start here, echo across the state, and have an impact across the world,” Cole said.
Montag said the two organizations need each other in order to achieve their goal of transforming health care. A dialogue is necessary between the experts in medicine and the experts in technology in order to make real the possibilities of the digital revolution, he said.
For a long time, Siemens focused on technical improvements — making an MRI faster or a CT scan more accurate. And while these are important topics that Siemens Healthineers will continue to work on, they don’t address the bigger problems, Montag said.
“It is not only about improving the machines. It is about changing the entire system and having as an endpoint not only a better product but better medicine,” he said.
Cole and Montag were joined in a question-and-answer session by David Pacitti, president of Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc., and head of Siemens Healthineers North America; Lisa Saladin, Ph.D., executive vice president for academic affairs; and Cawley.
Saladin and Cole said they’re excited about the opportunities the partnership will provide, exposing students to cutting-edge technology and allowing doctoral students to conduct research to show whether the clinical changes that MUSC makes have an effect on patient outcomes. In addition, Cole said, the students themselves are a source of transformational ideas.
“They’re going to help us see the future,” he said.